5 Things You Need to Know About Intellectual Property
1In today’s knowledge economy, Intellectual Property (IP) is quickly becoming one of the most important assets for any business. Even businesses which do not traditionally think of themselves as being in the business of IP ownership can have valuable IP. There are various forms of IP rights and protection, including trade marks, patents, copyright, trade secrets and confidential information. These property rights can represent a huge part of the value of your business, both now and at the time that a business is sold.
2Most businesses are building a brand, whether it be as a provider of goods or services. Your business name and logo are vital to that brand. Customers will form a strong association between your brand and the quality of what your business provides. To protect against a competitor using your name or a similar name in your business area, you should register a trade mark. Trade marks give you exclusive rights in relation to the marks that you have registered. These are one of the most common and most important forms of IP protection.
3If you’ve invented a product you may be able to patent it. Registering a patent is a complex process, and requires a knowledge not just of the subject matter of your invention but also the practices of patent drafting. Each patent application must be assessed according to the strict criteria set out by IP Australia. Navigating this process by yourself can be difficult. If you fail to properly set out the substance of your invention and the boundaries of what you want to obtain protection over, your application may be unsuccessful. To guard against this possibility you should consider involving a patent attorney, who will be able to draft your patent application in accordance with IP Australia’s requirements, and give you the best possible chance of a successful application.
4Trade secrets and confidential information are important forms of IP, which should be protected from competitors, partners and even your employees. To minimise the risk of employees using your trade secrets and confidential information for their own purposes you should ensure that a strongly worded IP clause is included in your employment agreements. When entering into partnerships or business relationships with other businesses, you should enter into a confidentiality agreement at the outset. Make sure any formal agreement you eventually enter into clearly sets out how your IP may be used by other parties. Your agreements should also cover what happens with any IP that is created in the course of the relationship.
5The IP in your business is not fixed. You and your employees may be generating new IP every day which is potentially valuable to your business. It is important to take stock of what IP your business owns now and have a plan in place to protect any new IP that is generated. Doing an audit of your existing IP may reveal assets you did not know you owned. Having a comprehensive list of your IP in place can also be helpful if someone wants to buy your business, as you can easily quantify the valuable IP that they will obtain as part of the acquisition.